Onchocerciasis (river blindness) is a disabling neglected tropical disease (NTD) that causes severe skin pathologies, visual impairment and eventual blindness. Large scale control interventions based on annual or semi-annual mass drug administration with ivermectin have reduced the risk of onchocerciasis disease to millions of people living in Sub-Saharan African and Latin America, but it is highly unlikely that in Africa this strategy alone will be sufficient to eliminate this disease by the World Health Organization (WHO) target date of 2020. This is because repeated treatment with ivermectin is only partially curative and therefore new drugs are needed both to improve therapeutic options for patients and to accelerate progress towards the WHO elimination goals.
The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) is a collaborative, patients’ needs-driven, non-profit drug research and development organization that is developing new treatments for neglected diseases. This collaborative project will develop mathematical transmission models and clinical trial simulators to help optimise the design of phase II/III clinical trials of new onchocerciasis treatments and evaluate the potential of these new medicines to accelerate progress towards eliminating this NTD.